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Big Bad Voodoo Daddy; Four Piece Suit

Back in town following a lengthy tour, and playing locally for the first time since the release of their first (sort of) major label album, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy delighted a packed (and then some) house of Voodoo worshipers.

With:
Bands: (Voodoo Daddy) Scotty Morris, Glen Marhevka, Jeff Harris, Karl Hunter, Andy Rowley, Josh Levy, Dirk Shumaker, Kurt Sondergren; (Four-Piece Suit) Milt Reder, Dave Scholl, Dean Cassell, Lorne Entress.

Back in town following a lengthy tour, and playing locally for the first time since the release of their first (sort of) major label album, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy delighted a packed (and then some) house of Voodoo worshipers. Audience cheered intros, sang along with band’s original lyrics and cheered again at songs’ close. If there was any space on the dance floor, many of the crowd would have been doing something more ambitious than The Sardine.

Local swing-rock group has earned its fan base the hard way, breaking through with a three-song performance in indie film hit “Swingers” and a new release on the Capitol-EMI Entertainment Properties-distributed Coolsville label.

Band doesn’t “swing” (on stage, at least) as much as they do rock, which is furiously. Overall sound jumps from Duke Ellington’s “jungle music” of the ’20s and ’30s (growling brass, heavy use of tom-toms, etc.) to something like the pit band at Alan Freed’s ’50s shows at the Brooklyn Paramount. Original material is relatively weak overall, more interestingly arranged than written, and with self-conscious lyrics; in person it serves simply as frame to hang lengthy, danceable and well-played solos. Set also included Cab Calloway’s theme “Minnie the Moocher,” and “I Wanna Be Like You” from Disney’s “Jungle Book.” Visual appeal includes four-man horn section frequently snaking around the stage as they play, and vocalist-leader Scotty Morris as a strong cheerleader during solos.

First-night openers, Four Piece Suit, are sax-led Boston instrumental quartet with style that was in great vogue during the ’50s — Bill Haley’s Comets, for instance — and with some borrowing from surf music.

Both groups’ set-list included obscure Henry Mancini tunes (“A Shot in the Dark” opening Four Piece Suit’s set, and the coolish “Something for Cat” from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” for Big Bad Voodoo Daddy), and both groups are slated to appear on an upcoming Coolsville anthology.

“Swing,” or whatever it is fans choose to call these bands’ music, may just be a momentary trend in the wake of ska, rockabilly, surf and cocktail-lounge music, but it’ll be fun while it lasts, and these bands perform with sincerity, style and musicianship.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy; Four Piece Suit

Production: Promoted in-house. Opened, reviewed May 21, 1998; closed, May 22.

Cast: Bands: (Voodoo Daddy) Scotty Morris, Glen Marhevka, Jeff Harris, Karl Hunter, Andy Rowley, Josh Levy, Dirk Shumaker, Kurt Sondergren; (Four-Piece Suit) Milt Reder, Dave Scholl, Dean Cassell, Lorne Entress.

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